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Sailing

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, since I didn’t have much cell service last night.

After a fairly leisurely morning, we upped anchor in the Rhode River and started towards the Wye River on the Eastern Shore. It wasn’t a windless day, but pretty near so. Once into the West River we raised sail and ghosted along at 1-2 knots. When the wind quit completely, we started the motor and made wake for the Eastern Shore, slowing down briefly for the hopes of sailing again, but with no substantive progress towards our goal. When the very light wind failed again, we motored on, finally dropping the hook in the first large creek to starboard on the Wye. We had hoped to go all the way up to our favorite place an hours’ motoring up the river – Ward’s Cove (our name for it) – but with an eye towards the weather forecast for the next two days, we decided to stay near mouth of the Wye. Rain was/is predicted today (this afternoon), as it accompanies a major cold front blowing through. Then tomorrow, temps are to drop into the low 50s with winds on the open bay up to 25 mph. Not dangerous for cautious sailors like us, but certainly not comfortable. We made the decision to come back a day early, and easy access to the mouth of the Wye took an hour off our trip.

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

We dropped anchor in six feet of water. There was much honking amid the many different groups of Canada geese in the creek. We were flanked by several of the typical Eastern Shore mansions one sees on the waterfront of many creeks, rivers and estuaries of the bay.

2016-10-20-17-23-052016-10-20-17-22-30I guess the is the country get-away for the east coast one percent. You can see why – it’s just beautiful up here. We relaxed a bit, had dinner, went to bed, and the wind picked up pretty good. 15 – 20 mph gusts made me anxious about my rode to chain splice, but we were fine through the night. Our new Delta 33# anchor held us fast.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Morning dawned clear and cool, then a brief fog rolled through, clearing up in about an hour. We got underway at 0930, and as I stowed the rode and chain down the hawse pipe I inspected the rope/chain splice – it was fine: no chafe, no rot, no problem, and no worries. Back out on the Eastern Bay, we raised the jib, as the wind was behind us (my least favorite point of sail with jib and main raised together) and made 3 knots. Turning left on to the Eastern Bay put us hard on the wind, at which point we raised the main. We had about 4 miles to go and a point of land to leeward to clear to get out on the open bay. I wasn’t sure we could point that high the whole time. We actually made it handily. Watkins 27s don’t have a reputation for being very weatherly sailboats, but I think they are fine if handled well and have a set of sails in reasonably good shape. Once we turned into the Eastern Bay, we followed a single compass course for the next 13 miles. Exiting from Eastern Bay, the wind gradually strengthened to about 15 mph and backed around from South to SSE. I kept easing the sheets until we were on a beam reach, and hitting 6.1-6.2 knots from time to time. The sky was blue, it was 70 degrees, and we were on a beam reach for close to two hours. Glorious sailing!

As we approached our home port of Deale, we saw the clouds moving in from the SW. We were moored by 1430, had the boat unloaded by 1500, and the rain began at 1600.

Tomorrow, cold and windy. Glad we’re home snug and warm.

 

 

Although our wedding anniversary was in August, we couldn’t get away to celebrate until this week. Even so, we just had to carve out a few days from the calendar. Retired life can get fairly busy! So today through Saturday we’ll be on the bay visiting our favorite haunts, as the weather and wind allow. I will post daily, provided that I have cell service.

We finally got away from the pier at 1600 and made for the Rhode River, as a northerly course seemed to promise a more favorable point of sail. And it did, for an hour and a half, but as we got clear of the shadow of Herring Bay, the breeze clocked around to a vector more directly astern, losing strength at the same time. I finally dropped the headsail, sheeted the main to centerline, and started the motor. We didn’t want to be caught dodging crab pot floats in the dark. We made good time with a fair current, motorsailing until we made the final turn up the river.

I stowed the sails as Ruth steered, then mustered the sea-and-anchor detail (me).

We’re at anchor now, in a spot we’ve been many times, finished with dinner and waiting for the critical mass to accumulate for showers and bed.

Until tomorrow. . .

This is the time of year when sailing is good almost every day. Breeze is strong, temps are moderate, even the rain is tolerable. So I’ve posted a few photos from recent sails. Not great stuff, but just to give you the feel of sailing on the Chesapeake in October.

Weather looks a little doubtful with respect to rain, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

Weather looks a little doubtful, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

. . . and I wasn't the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

. . . and I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The work boats are always out here. Weather smeather ! - they've got to make a living. This is a hard job.

The work boats are always out here. The water is never too rough, the weather never too bad to make a living. This is a hard job.

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And I'm not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

And I’m not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled "plow," or "maximum fuel usage." He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I'd hate to have his fuel bill.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled “plow,” or “maximum fuel usage.” He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I’d hate to have his fuel bill.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Hands-free steering.

Hands-free steering.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Learning more about sailing alone - heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

Learning more about sailing alone – heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

After a week of rain I had to get off the pier. There was no wind, but I didn’t care. I got on board, stowed the swash boards – and noted water stains inside where there had been none before (a week of rain will do that), opened the right valves, got out keys, cushions, and boat hook. I started the engine, cast off the lines – all but one, and promptly threw the boat hook into the water. Well, I had placed it on deck, then somehow knocked it off the deck with my foot. My neighbor rescued me and loaned me his boat hook. Took me several minutes of fishing to figure out that the hooky thing on the end was the perfect place to hook my own boat hook. I amaze myself.

Okay, lines cast off, life line gates latched, and off we go.

Motoring down the creek. Marinas to the right. . .

Motoring down the creek. Marinas to the right. . .

. . . marinas to the left. . .

. . . marinas to the left. . .

Out to the open bay. The water is glass. There are many boats wrapping up their weekend. I can still hear their crews sighing with relief because the rain has stopped. There were even a few optimistic sailboats out with their sails up, but they were going no place fast. There was no wind – no wind all day.

Many terns and gulls taking advantage of the glassy water in which bait fish churned on the surface, the birds diving from the air, or sitting at the edge of bait balls of fry, gorging themselves. Motor boaters seemed to take great delight driving right through groups of birds on the water – 30 to 40 strong – making them fly, like I did as a kid in the park dashing through crowds of pigeons. Have to admit, I aimed at a couple of groups of birds too, but sailboats are too slow to set off a really satisfying alarm amongst them..

2016-10-02-18-08-07There were enough clouds to provide dramatic effect for my crumby phone/camera photos (providing I used some fairly heavy editing to come up with something worth looking at). I have been forgetting to take my dslr with me lately, so I have to make do with the phone.

2016-10-02-18-18-36After motoring for 35 minutes, I turned around and headed back to the pier. Nice to be on the water, even if the sails stayed under cover. This coming week promises to be better for sailing.

Inside the breakwater, setting sun shining on white things.

Inside the breakwater, setting sun shining on white things.

Back to the slip, backing into the slip – landed first time like a pro (what luck!) and my neighbor was still there to witness it – thereby partially redeeming myself for throwing my boat hook into the water.

We were invited out for a ride on a friend’s 41 foot down east-style yacht to view the race in mid-fleet, as it were. We had a wonderful afternoon/evening of looking at and photographing beautiful, fast yachts sailing in pretty gusty conditions. I’ve posted a few photos below – if you’re like me, looking at photos of beautiful sailing yachts is almost as good as sailing.  Enjoy!

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Last Friday, after a very busy week for Ruth, we stepped on board the boat and cast off for parts unknown. Really, our destination was unknown, as I looked at the wind forecast. I thought we might go north to Rhode River, but after an hour and a half of really great sailing, a giant storm cloud rolled in from the direction we wished to travel. It was a thunderstorm, and there was no good option really, but we decided to run away east, instead of sailing directly into its teeth.  Turns out, it didn’t make much difference what we did, because the storm chased us east and south, overtaking us about 2/3 the way across the bay. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. I got damp – not even soaked – and Ruth took refuge down below.

We made Knapps Narrows in clear weather, and motored up to Dun Cove. We would have gone up to Drew’s Cove, but we had just finished what would have ordinarily been a 3-4 hour crossing in 5-plus hours, and we were getting hungry and tired, and Dun Cove was right at hand.

There was one other boat in the cove, and we anchored well away from it. Our “new” 33# delta set fast and hard with no drama, and we didn’t budge from that spot.

The only other boat in Dun Cove

The only other boat in Dun Cove

Dinner, reading, and bed. A restless night for me, despite feeling very secure about the anchor set. I think this is more related to the onset of old age. . . As a “younger adult” I used to sleep really hard and wake up really hard. Not so much anymore.

Ruth rose before I did and made coffee. As often happens at anchor, her day began when awakened by crabbers  – “chicken neckers” – puttering about the anchorage, often very near our boat, speaking in not-very-hushed-tones. They don’t realize there are people sleeping on board at 0530.

Intent upon their quarry

Intent upon their quarry

Ah well, they provided the morning entertainment, especially when they’re confronted with a larger-than-normal crab. You’d think they’d hooked a whale, judging by their excitement!

We hung out at anchor until about 1100, then cast off for home. 3 hours of motoring gets us back to home port at 5 knots (average speed) when the wind doesn’t cooperate – which it didn’t on Saturday. But time on the water is satisfying regardless. We were tired when we got back, but refreshed too. Looking forward to the next time!

Pelicans are an unusual sight for the this area of the bay. I grew up seeing them in Florida, and it was nice to see these last week too.

Pelicans are an unusual sight for the this area of the bay. I grew up seeing them in Florida, and it was nice to see these last week too.

Sitting at the helm for long stretches of time isn’t my favorite thing to do while sailing longer distances. In fact, when I have a guest on board, I give away the helm as soon as possible. I’d much rather be mobile and adjust sails, take photos, and generally not be tied to the tiller. However, electronic tiller pilots aren’t very effective for steering under sail – weather helm easily overpowers them, or overtakes their ability to make corrections quickly. They are good for steering under power, though. I don’t want to spend $5-6k on a windvane self-steering unit – especially since most of my sailing is in the Chesapeake – seems like overkill if I’m not going to cross an ocean (no plans for that!). So, sheet-to-tiller seems like the best alternative. I’ve always conceived it of being too complicated, or not effective on every point of sail, but I changed my perspective recently when I read the phrase “. . . every sailboat can be made to steer itself.” Hmmm. . .

I began to watch some videos on the subject, and became convinced that it was both effective and easy, so I collected the various components from my spares that I keep on board. Basically, I needed an alternate main sheet that directly and dynamically ties the boom to the tiller, and I needed a counter-balance device – in this case I used several lengths of shock cord connected to a lanyard that will connect to the slotted toe rail.

Mainsheet: runs from the end of the boom to a block fixed (at this point) to the backstay, then to a block that’s attached to the toe rail on the weather-side of the boat. This will counterbalance the tendancy for the boat to round up to weather – as wind pressure acts against the main, it’s force is transmitted to the opposite side (windward side), applying force to weather on the tiller, and subsequently causing the boat to bear off. The shock cord is attached to the leeward rail and pulls the tiller back to center line when the wind pressure lessens. Here are a few photos to illustrate:

Line from end of the boom.

Line from end of the boom.

Turning block on the backstay.

Turning block on the backstay.

Led down to the weather side to another block.

Led down to the weather side to another block.

Terminates in a cam cleat attached to the tiller. You can see the shock cord led from the opposite rail adding balancing force to the tiller.

Terminates in a cam cleat attached to the tiller. You can see the shock cord led from the opposite rail adding balancing force to the tiller.

I made up two lengths of line with snap clips to attach to the rails.  These in turn are attached to the block on one side, and the shock cord on the other. This way, when the boat is tacked or jibed, the lanyards can be easily moved to opposite sides. An advantage to having a slotted toe rail, is that the length of, and therefore the tension of the lines can be infinitely adjusted by moving the clips to adjacent slots just an inch or two at a time until the correct balance is attained.

Lanyard attached to toe rail.

Lanyard attached to toe rail.

Here's a view of the tiller-mounted cam cleat for the sheet.

Here’s a view of the tiller-mounted cam cleat for the sheet.

Another view of the sheet-lead to the tiller.

Another view of the sheet-lead to the tiller.

Leaving the mainsheet slack but attached is a critical safety consideration. That way, if the alternate sheet attached to the tiller gives way for any reason, the boom is still captured after the slack is taken up.

Leaving the mainsheet slack but attached is a critical safety consideration. That way, if the alternate sheet attached to the tiller gives way for any reason, the boom is still captured after the slack is taken up.

So how did it work? Well, pretty good for the initial experiment. I discovered unwanted friction in the block mounted to the backstay as a result of the line being led too closely to the bimini. We moved the bimini off the block, and that helped somewhat. We need to continue experimenting with lanyard positioning and sail trim before we can report total success on all points of sail. However, we did achieve stable steering on a beam reach and close reach on our first experimental day-sail. I was pretty satisfied!

 

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